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G O U R M mag ET

the green issue Fall2017

the autumn

bucket list

caldarroste Have a Roman walk while savoring hot caldarroste (roasted chestnuts) from a street vendor.

forest bathing Have a “forest bath”, the Japanese stress defeating practice called shinrin-yoku (森林浴): Walk, admire and enjoy Nature to detox your body and soul. Rome parks are perfect for the intent.

sweet memories Plan and realize the best Christmas family portraits ever!

good smells Find a new Fall simmer pot combo, one that will become the signature perfume of your house.

mindful gifts Christmas gifts: the sooner the better. No rush, no mess, no absently choosing whatever we find.

easy feast Plan an easy Fall picnic with just a cheese and charcuterie plate and a bottle of wine.

a gourmet touch Make truffle olive oil popcorn for gourmet movie nights.


Infusing olive oils for the winter: aromatic herbs are at their peak in flavor, it's time to give your condiments a hint!

the pumpkin


Pumpkin, in Italian cuisine, is very common, especially in Northern Italy. I think pumpkin risotto is the most popular Fall dish in the peninsula, followed by easy pan fried pumpkin. I made a special menu, inspired by Halloween, green pumpkins and parmesan :-). It wasn’t on purpose, but now that I’m writing, I realize it is a totally vegetarian menu. I’ve always declared it: there are a million vegetarian options in Italian cuisine, no wonder it is one of the countries with the highest concentration of vegetarians. I guess for them it’s not that big deal, especially if you can have a delicious risotto. Enjoy it!



Ingredients for a medium-size loaf (4-6 servings): 400 gr (14 oz) of pumpkin pulp (I used a green skin pumpkin) 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil 12 gr (0.4 oz) of salt 3 leaves of sage for decoration purposes: 5 gr (0.18 oz) of dry yeast a pumpkin stem or other dry sprig 400 gr (14 oz) of 0 flour kitchen twine 100 gr (3.5 oz) of 00 flour Cut pumpkin in pieces and chop the sage leaves. Place olive oil, pumpkin and sage in a small skillet, sprinkle with salt, cover and cook until fork tender (about 10 minutes), mixing with a wooden spoon every now and then. Use a fork or a masher to purée the pumpkin. Place flours in the mixer bowl and add pumpkin and yeast. Add water, a tablespoon at the time and mix until you get a dough that forms a ball around the hook (a few tablespoons should be enough, it depends on how moisture your pumpkin is. You might not need water at all!). Work it with your hands to form a regular ball, return it to the bowl, cover it with plastic paper and refrigerate at least 24 hours. Take back the dough, work it a bit with your hands, and re-form a ball. Grease some kitchen twine with olive oil. Twist the twine 4 times around the dough ball, to carve 8 segments. Embed the pumpkin stem or other sprig on top of your "pumpkin”. Brush the surface with olive oil, cover it with a tablecloth, and let rise one more hour. Preheat oven (static) to 200°C (390°F) and bake your bread 10 minutes. Lower temperature to 180°C (350°F) and bake 25 minutes more. Ready! The bread is delicious on the same day you baked it, and on the day after, and will still be good for another day.



Ingredients for 4: for the broth 2 carrots 1 small potato 1 white onion 2 sage leaves 5-6 black pepper grains 1,5 lt (6 cups) of water 1 tablespoon of salt

for the risotto 300 gr (10.6 oz) of pumpkin pulp (preferably from a “Mantovana� or a green skin pumpkin) 70 gr (2.5 oz) of butter 1 small/medium white onion 300 gr (10.6 oz) of Carnaroli or Vianone Nano rice 50 gr (1.7 oz) of white dry wine 40 gr (1.4 oz) of grated parmesan

Place carrots, potatoes, 1/2 onion, pepper, sage leaves and water in a pot and bring to a boil, simmer 40 minutes. Remove carrot, potato onion etc. (you can use them for a potato salad :-)). Add salt. Thinly dice the pumpkin pulp and add it to the broth. Cook 10 minutes or until fork tender. Meanwhile finely chop the remaining onion. Heat half of the butter in a large pan, add the onion and sautĂŠ until golden brown. Add the rice and toast it for less than a minute (medium-low heat). Add the wine and let it evaporate, continuously stirring with a wood spoon, for a minute or so (until the alcohol evaporates). Add broth and pumpkin, a ladleful at the time, and cook, stirring continuously, until the rice is completely cooked, but still "al dente". Add the remaining butter and mix. Add grated parmesan and mix until completely absorbed. Your risotto is ready, serve immediately!



Nusat is a savory pumpkin pie from Pavia: a countryside dish, very often prepared for Christmas Eve. Ingredients for 2-4: 300 gr (10.6 oz) of pumpkin pulp (preferably from a green skin pumpkin) 2 leaves of sage 1 tablespoon of butter + more to grease the pan 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil 1/2 white onion 20 gr (0.7 oz) of grated parmesan cheese 20 gr (0.7 oz) of breadcrumbs + 1 tablespoon for the pan 1/4 teaspoon of grated nutmeg 1 egg salt Steam the pumpkin pulp, sprinkled with salt, 15-20 minutes (for extra flavor put a few sage leaves in the water). Use a fork or a masher to purée it and place it in a bowl. Preheat oven to 150°C (300 F°). Peel and chop the onion. Heat butter and olive oil in a small pan, and golden brown the onion. Drain and keep the fats. Add them to the mashed pumpkin. Add parmesan, breadcrumbs, the egg, nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Mix well. Grease a cake pan (6 inch for these quantities) with butter and add the tablespoon of breadcrumbs, shake the pan to make breadcrumbs adhere to the whole surface, including walls. Pour the pumpkin mixture and even it with a spatula. You can use a fork to "decorate” the surface. Bake in the oven 18-20 minutes. Serve hot or cold, sprinkled with walnuts, coarsely chopped.



Halloween in Rome? Take a walk in the Coppedè neighborhood, possibly in a creepy hour, like sunset… Not only the mixed Art Nouveau, medieval, Baroque and ancient Greek styles give it quite a scary look, but the whimsical touch of the architect (Mr. Coppedè), gave it an unnatural guise, which leaves you fascinated and kind of disturbed. No surprise it was the set of a few of Italian’s most famous horror movies… Still, it is a wonderful walk, an incredible demonstration of Italians talent for art and architecture… and a place where I would move tomorrow if someone gave me a house there :-).

Dried flowers are the perfect, little-to-no-effort, DIY décor for Halloween. You can make a wreath for the door or a decadent bouquet. You can scatter them on your spooky tablescape or adorn your hairdo… I dry flowers two ways, depending on what I’ll need them for: For décor purposes, I simply empty their vase and leave them in a dry, not sunny, spot of the house. In a few weeks, I have a beautiful (sometimes ugly, so I try with another flower) dried bouquet. N.B. roses and thin stem flowers need to be hung upside down. ...

... For journals, scrapbooks etc. I place my flowers inside a folded piece of baking paper and inside a book. Then put the book under a pile of other (heavy) books. 3-4 weeks and I have beautiful, flat, dried flowers. N.B. It doesn’t work with all the flowers, but most of them.

Looking for a scary (not too much) and Italian-ish Halloween read? Dylan Dog, the sexiest man in the comic books world is waiting for you. Dylan is a paranormal investigator, so expect a lot of monsters, homicides, and nightmares. Although he lives and works in London, Dylan has preserved all the charm, and the habits, of an Italian Latin Lover, so expect a lot of love stories as well (and sexy, a little caricatured, women). It is the second most sold comic book in Italy. The reason? You’ll hardly get bored! You’ll find some issues in English on Amazon, and many of the Italian issues as well (practice your Italian!).

the wine


Guys, I think it’s time to celebrate. Fall is here again, and it’s my favorite season! The vibrant colors, most of the Summer’s produce at their flavor peak. Harvesting, new wine, cozy gatherings and long walks surrounded by nature and soft breezes. And dinner parties! I love to give my dinner parties a theme, it’s fun for me to host and for my friends to participate. It’s a conversation topic and great ice-breaker. The perfect theme for this time of the year is WINE. Who doesn’t love wine? Who will not appreciate a wine based menu, a few bottles of New Wine from a special place and good company? So here are 3 recipes for a delightful wine themed dinner party: a red wine focaccia, for the charcuterie board; a red wine risotto from Northern Italy and peposo, a peppery slow cooked beef stew, that simmers for a couple of hours in guess… wine!



350 gr (12 oz) of 0 or Manitoba flour 60 ml (2 oz) of a strong red wine (like Amarone or Chianti) 120 ml (4 oz) of warm water 8 cloves 15 gr (0.5 oz) of fresh yeast 80 gr (2.8 oz) of pecorino 60 ml (2 oz) of extra virgin olive oil + something more 1 teaspoon of sea salt 1 teaspoon of coarse salt 1 rosemary sprig Day 1 Dissolve yeast in half of the water and salt in the other half. Place flour in a bowl (or stand mixer bowl, dough hook on). Add both glasses of water, wine and olive oil. Mix well until you get an elastic, sticky dough. Pour a teaspoon of olive oil on the bottom of a bowl and pour in the dough. Cover with plastic paper and refrigerate overnight. Day 2 Grate the pecorino. Take dough from the fridge, add the pecorino and work it with your hands to incorporate it. Line an oven tray (perforated is better) with parchment paper and pour the dough over it. With oil-drenched hands spread the dough through the entire tray surface. Cover the tray with plastic or a kitchen cloth and let the dough grow for one hour. Preheat over to 200°C (390°F). With greased fingertips form pits all over the surface. Pour some more oil (about two tablespoons) making sure it goes inside the pits too. In some of them stick in the cloves. Finally, sprinkle the surface with a teaspoon or so of coarse salt. Bake for about 25 minutes. When still hot, sprinkle the surface with rosemary leaves. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Did you know there’s a fountain springing wine 24/7 in Abruzzo? We already had something like that near Rome, in Marino. But it was only for a few days, during the harvest and wine festival of this cute little town. Instead, all the pilgrims that, in any period of the year, are challenging their selves in the Italian version of the Camino de Santiago, can now enjoy a restoring moment, by savoring a glass of local red wine in the town of Caldari di Ortona. This is the prize for the Cammino di San Tommaso, a 150 miles pilgrimage route that takes you from Rome to Ortona, where the body of the disciple Thomas is said to be. There’s such a long love affair between religion and wine… at least here in Italy :-)…



Ingredients for two: 250 ml (6.7 oz) of chicken broth 1 sprig of thyme (fresh or dried) 50 gr (1.7 oz) of butter ½ onion 1 garlic clove 125 gr (4.4 oz) of risotto rice 250 ml (8.4 oz) of red wine with a strong flavor (like Amarone) 20 gr (0.7 oz) of parmesan Grate the parmesan and set it aside. Peel and finely chop the onion; peel, and squash the garlic clove. In a large pan melt the butter (medium heat), add the onion and garlic and brown them for a few seconds. Once golden brown, remove the garlic clove and add the thyme leaves. Brown a few seconds (enough to release the aroma). Add rice and toast it for a minute or so, stirring frequently. Add half of the wine and mix. Cook, stirring now and then until the wine is completely absorbed. Now add the broth. Add a spoonful, mix and wait for the rice to absorb it, then add another one. Continue until you finish the broth. Finally, add the remaining wine, mix and cook until totally absorbed. Taste the rice: it should be cooked “al denteâ€?. If not properly cooked, add some water (a tablespoon at the time, as you did for the broth) until perfectly cooked. Add the grated parmesan and stir until it melts and seasons all the rice. Serve immediately, with more parmesan, if desired.



A peppery beef stew from Tuscan’s hills. Peposo (= Peppery) Ingredients for 2 (to be duplicated as desired): 250 gr (8.8 oz) of stewing beef 250 ml (8.5 oz) of red Chianti wine 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons of black pepper 1 garlic clove 1 sprig of rosemary 2-3 sage leaves salt If needed, cut the meat in chunks. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pot (a terracotta pot would be the traditional tool). Brown the meat in the olive oil, making sure you brown all sides (medium heat). Add the garlic clove (peeled and smashed), the rosemary, the sage leaves, wine, ½ teaspoon of salt and pepper. Simmer (lowest heat) for 1.5 hours. Check every now and then and add water if necessary (it will be). When you’re near to the end of the cooking time, stop pouring water and cook unlidded until the liquids become a thick sauce. Serve hot with (freshly baked) Tuscan bread and a big glass of Chianti :-)

how to decant


How about surprising your dinner guests with a little show? You decanting a red aged wine just like a professional! It is not complicated. Once you’ve collected all the tools (and practiced a bit) you can impress anyone. Vintage Red Wines need to decant. Which means: separating wine from solid elements (deposit of particles that affect aroma and taste). It is a process to prevent any cloudiness and allow you to fully appreciate the wine quality. What you’ll need: • A candle on a stand/candlestick • Bottle opener • Warm water in a jug • A napkin • A decanter

1 - Light the candle. 2 - Clean the bottle neck with the napkin. 3 - Uncork the bottle and smell the cork to check for unpleasant odors. 4 - Clean the inner bottom of the neck from eventual cork residues. 5 - Pour some warm water from the jug in the decanter and shake it a little to warm it up. Return the water into the jug and set it aside. 6 - Pour a small quantity of wine and proceed to taste. 7 - Priming decanter and glasses is a way to remove any odor of water, cloth, or imperfect rinse. Pour a little wine into the decanter and twirl the liquid, so that it touches almost the entire inner surface. With the same wine, you can proceed to glasses priming, pouring wine in the first glass, spinning and pouring the same wine into the next glass. 8 - In this phase, you will use the candle light to detect deposits, so you’ll know when to stop pouring the wine into the decanter. Hold the wine bottle (be careful not to shake it) with your right hand, and the decanter with your left hand. Place the bottle, inclined, in front of the candle, for it to illuminate the bottle's shoulder, letting you clearly see the passing of wine. Incline both the containers and slowly pour the wine. Make the wine slide down through the decanter wall. Slow and sweet. Always look at the wine flowing through the bottle, illuminated by the candle light. At a certain point, this light will let you individuate deposit lees: this means it’s time to stop decanting, before these deposits pass to the decanter. 9 - Lift the decanter and spin the candle around it to check the clarity of wine. Wine Service Note: while serving wine you should hold the decanter from the side or from the bottom, not from the neck!

wine in rome


Rome has its own, very peculiar, wine measures. 2 to 4 people will order (at least) a liter of wine. 2 people, not willing to drink too much will ask for a “foglietta” (=small leave), and get half a liter. If only one person at the table is willing to drink wine, then she/he’ll order a “quartino” (=small quarter), and get a quarter of a liter. If the same person doesn’t want to drink too much, she/he’ll ask for a “chirichetto” (= altar boy), and get a fifth of a liter. If she/he only wants to taste the wine, cause they're insisting on how good it is :-), she/he’ll get a “sospiro” (=sigh), one tenth of a liter. Of course, we are talking of friendly restaurants, with wines “della casa”. This “home wines” are locally produced bulk wines, purchased by the restaurateur. Now and then you may find a few exceptions: restaurants that open a few good bottles and serve them “alla mescita”, in single servings.

the birdy


My Roman Thanksgiving is a very pagan activity I perpetuate from my old days at the American school, and that I reinterpret as: first, an excuse to celebrate and eat cranberry sauce, second, as a moment to stop and mindfully think of good things happened in the last year. And of course, give thanks. Each year I’m undecided between making the traditional stuffed turkey, the gravy and everything else, or reinterpreting the menu… I’m obviously sharing with you the second choice, Italian recipes that more than decently replace an American Thanksgiving menu. The twist to classics: always fun. So here’s my Birdy Project… guess why!

quail eggs & foie gras


This is really really easy to do. Impressive results and little effort. The perfect dinner party antipasto! Ingredients for 10 mini crostini: Ÿ cup of white vinegar 1 small can of foie gras pate 10 quail eggs (maybe a couple more for possible accidents) Fig jam Salt and pepper Ground rosemary White sandwich bread Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and add vinegar. Cut the white bread into 6 cm (2.5 inches) squares. Toast the squares and spread them with the fig jam. Add a layer of foie gras pate. Carefully shell the quail eggs (cut away the top with a sharp knife) and place them in a bowl. Delicately pour them into the boiling water. After about 30 seconds (when they start to come to the surface), they’ll be ready. Remove them from the water with a skimmer and place them on a plate. Clean each egg from excess white and leave a clean, smooth ball. Finally, place a poached egg on top of each crostino and sprinkle them with a pinch of salt, pepper and ground rosemary. Serve immediately.



Ingredients for 4: 400 gr (14 oz) of pappardelle 250 gr (8.8 oz) of duck breast 1 teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil ¼ onion ½ carrot ¼ of a celery stick 1 garlic clove 1 bay leave 2 sage leaves 20 gr (0.7 oz) of pancetta 120 ml (4 oz) of a good quality red wine (possibly Chianti) 100 gr (3.5 oz) of tomato passata Parmesan cheese Peel and finely chop the onion, the carrot, and the celery stick. Peel and crush the garlic clove. Coarsely chop the pancetta. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan (medium heat). Brown the duck breast (skin side down first) for about 5 minutes per side. Remove it from the pot and set it aside. Add the onion, the carrot, the celery, the garlic clove, the bay leave, the sage leaves and the pancetta to the pan. Reduce heat to low, add ½ a teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper, and sauté the soffritto until onion is fork tender and translucent. Add the wine and the duck breast. Simmer, covered, 30 minutes, until the meat gets tender (add water if necessary). Remove the duck, chop it and place it in a stand mixer. Mix on high speed until meat is well shredded. Return meat to the saucepan, add the tomato passata and 250 ml (8.4 oz) of water. Cook, low heat, 40 minutes, until the meat is very tender (add water if necessary). Salt to taste. Cook pappardelle accordingly to package directions. Season pasta with the duck ragù and sprinkle it with grated parmesan.


a l'orange

Commonly known as a French dish (and it certainly is), only a few know that Duck a l’Orange was originated in Tuscany and exported by Caterina de Medici’s chefs when she married Henry II and moved to France with her entourage. Whoever made it up can be called a genius :-). Ingredients for 2, to be duplicated as desired: 1 tablespoon of butter 300 gr (10.5 oz) of duck breast (skin on) 1 orange 150 ml (5 oz) of “mandarinetto” or other tangerine or orange based liquor salt

Peel the orange (avoid the white part) and juice half of it. Remove the white peel from the other half (and discard it) and slice the orange. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and blanch the orange peel for about 6 minutes. Drain and julienne it. Massage the duck breast with the butter and a few pinches of salt, try to get it under the skin as well. Heat a small pan and cook the duck, skin side down, for 5 minutes. Turn and cook 5 minutes on the other side (while cooking on this side, prick the skin with a fork to help release the grease). Remove the breast and place it between two plates to keep it hot. Add the liquor and the orange juice to the pan juices. Add the orange slices and the julienned peel, turn the heat to high and caramelize them for a few minutes (until the liquids halve and become syrupy). Remove the crunchy skin from the duck and place it on your serving plate. Slice the duck breast and display it over the skin. Add the julienned orange peel and orange slices and pour the syrup on top of it all. Serve immediately.

Here’s a collection of recipes that are the basic, everyday recipes of an Italian kitchen. Things people cook on weekdays, or special occasions, to feed their family and friends. I love the memories that they bring to people’s minds when they take the first bite. The sweet smile that appears on their face when these flavors recall the look, the voice, the touch of someone they love. A grandmother, a mother, a father, an aunt… People in the kitchen making soul food.

the sweet memories




Ingredients are for 2, duplicate as desired (and do as much as you can, so you can store it for the winter): 20 San Marzano tomatoes ½ red onion Salt A food mill Cut tomatoes in two and thinly slice the onion. Place tomatoes in a large saucepan and cook them, lid on and over low heat, stirring now and then with a wood spoon. When the pulp is crushed and peels come out easily, remove from heat. Pass tomatoes through a food mill and collect the sauce back in the saucepan. Cook, low heat 5-10 minutes. Add salt to taste. The passata is ready, if you are going to use it now or in the next couple of days (store it in the refrigerator). If not, pour it into sterilized jars (place them in room temperature water and bring to a boil) and water bath them. How to: Pour the passata into each vase (leave at least half inch from the top free). Use a funnel for neater results. Close with new lids. Place the jars in a big pot, fill it with water (3/4 the height of the jars) and bring to a boil. Boil 60 minutes. Bring to room temperature and dry the jars. Check if the lid is well sealed (when you press the center it should stay down and not come up again, producing a click sound). If not sealed, change jar and lid and water bath again.



Ingredients for 4 ½ carrot 1 celery stick ¼ white onion 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil 150 gr (5.3 oz) of pancetta 250-300 gr (8.8 – 10.5 oz) of ground beef ½ glass of dry white wine 5 tablespoons of tomato passata ½ glass of cow milk Peel and thinly chop the carrot and the onion. Clean the celery from any filament and finely chop it. In a large, tall-walls skillet pour the olive oil and the chopped veggies. Turn the heat high and sauté vegetables for about 5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon now and then. Meanwhile finely chop the pancetta. Add pancetta to the pan and decrease heat to low. Stir and cook a couple of minutes. Add the meat, stir and cook a couple of minutes more. Add wine, stir and cook a few minutes until it evaporates (alcohol smell is gone). Add the passata, stir, cover and simmer two hours. Every now and then check, and eventually add ¼-1/2 glass of water (the original recipe calls for broth, but it’s hard to have good, homemade broth at hand and most Italians just add water). 10 minutes before it is done, add milk and mix, cover and finish the cooking time. Cook pasta and season it with the ragù and grated parmesan cheese.


alla milanese

Cotoletta alla Milanese or Fettina panata The difference between these two preparations is just in the meat of your choice. The cotoletta is a veal rib, tall at least 3 cm/1 inch. Fettina panata is instead a thinner (and consequently larger) slice of veal. You can make the recipe with both of them, just consider a few cooking minutes more for the thicker steak. Ingredients for 2: 2 tablespoons of clarified butter 2 ribs or veal slices 1 egg 1 cup of breadcrumbs salt 1 lemon parsley

Put breadcrumbs in a large plate. Whisk the egg in a bowl. Dip the veal in it, making sure it touches every part of it. Lift it and let the excess egg drip off. Move the veal to the plate and bread each part of it by flipping it from side to side and making sure you bread the sides as well. Melt butter in a large pan, medium heat. Pan-fry each veal steak 3-4 minutes (8-12 in case you have a rib) per side, flipping carefully. You are looking for a lightly golden color. Remove meat and place it on a plate with kitchen paper to absorb excess grease. Salt to taste and serve the cotolette immediately, with the lemon halved (to be sprinkled over the meat) and freshly chopped parsley.



Ingredients for 2: 5 eggs 30 gr (1 oz) of grated parmesan cheese ½ red onion ½ teaspoon of salt Ÿ teaspoon of black pepper 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil I use an 8-inch nonstick pan Finely chop or thinly slice the peeled onion. Heat the olive oil in the pan, add the onion, cover, and cook (low heat) until fork tender and translucent. Meanwhile, brake eggs into a bowl, add salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese and mix, not too much, enough to break the yolks and mix the ingredients. Once the onion is cooked pour it into the bowl and give it another stir. Pour the egg mixture into the same (already greased) pan. Turn the heat to medium/high for about 30 seconds, then take it back to low heat. Cover the pan and cook 5 minutes. Help yourself with the lid to flip over the frittata. Cook it 1-2 minutes more and slip it into a serving plate. Done!



(Paradise Cake) For a medium size cake pan 125 gr (4.4 oz) of butter, room temperature + something more for the pan 125 gr (4.4 oz) of confectionary sugar + something more to decorate. 1 vanilla bean A pinch of salt 125 gr (4.4 oz) of eggs 65 gr (2.3 oz) of 00 flour 60 gr (2.1 oz) of potato starch 4 gr (0.14 oz) of dried yeast 1 pinch of sea salt 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Place butter, confectionary sugar and the inner beans of the vanilla (carve it and remove them with a knife blade) in a bowl or stand mixer. Whip until frothy. Sift flour, starch, and yeast in another bowl. Add eggs and a pinch of salt to the butter bowl and mix well. Add the sifted flours, a tablespoon at the time, while mixing (low speed). Butter the cake pan and add the granulated sugar. Shake the pan to make sugar adhere to the whole surface (including walls). Pour the cake mix into the cake pan (it should fill no more than 2/3 of it). Bake the cake 20-25’. Check if it is ready by sticking a wooden skewer in the center: if it comes out clean, the cake is ready. Bring to room temperature; turn the cake upside down on the serving plate and sprinkle the surface with a couple of tablespoons of confectionary sugar, through a fine sieve.

the diy gifts


Homemade presents are not for all. I know a few people that might think that because I’m tightfisted, I don’t want to buy “real gifts”. What they don’t get is that most of the time I spend more by making my edible Christmas gifts than buying something in a mall. First, because I always buy first-quality ingredients, second because I put a lot of effort in packaging (and we all know how cute craft stuff costs), third because homemade is always more expensive than industrial. I simply don’t give my treasures to these people. I keep my homemade presents for the ones I know will appreciate. The ones that will ask for more.

the CHOCO gift


What’s even better than a homemade gift? A homemade gift basket! A basket or a box full of cute surprises and matching little presents… This is my choco gift basket: most of it is homemade and everything comes from Italian Christmas cooking traditions (old or “new” school). There’s the classic Christmas torrone, that I found out to be great when homemade, especially if you give it a creamy texture by using Nutella. Then we have chocolate salami: the classic treat of Italians’ childhood. Something grandmas and mommas made for the merenda (afternoon snack) of their children and their friends. If you’re into the homemaking flurry, why not adding your own Nutella? It took me a while to come out with this recipe, and it certainly is not like real Nutella. But, I swear, it is a more than an accommodating compromise. And you know, when people find out you made it, I don’t know why it just gains a thousand points! All of the above will make the day of children and adults, but there are a few things in the basket/box that are exclusively for grown-ups. I’m talking about the chocolate flavored vin brulè mix (for those cozy winter nights) and Nutellino, a Nutella based liquor, so easy it will probably become your favorite homemade gift. Fill in the box or basket with all these goodnesses, and if there’s still room, add some confetti, hazelnuts, walnuts and a bottle of wine to match the vin brulè.



200 gr (7 oz) of Nutella 300 gr (10.5 oz) of dark chocolate 100 gr (3.5 oz) of milk chocolate 170-200 gr (6-7 oz) of toasted hazelnuts A torrone or plum cake mold Parchment paper Double boil dark chocolate. Line the mold with parchment paper (I wet it and squeeze it to make it better adhere to walls and corners). Brush a layer of melted chocolate on the bottom of the mold, including 4-5 cm (1.5-2 inches) of the walls. Place the mold in the freezer for a couple of minutes. Repeat twice. Add the milk chocolate to the double boil and melt it as well. When melted, add the Nutella and mix well. Add the hazelnuts and mix again. Take the mold from the freezer and pour in the mixture. Let temperature decrease and refrigerate at least 4 hours. Remove the torrone from the mold, and gently tear off the parchment paper. Ready to be decorated, eaten or given away.



Ingredients: 100 gr (3.5 oz) of butter, room temperature 250 gr (8.8 oz) of cookies (I use macine, but tea biscuits or digestive cookies are ok) 2 eggs 100 gr (3.5 oz) of granulated sugar 200 gr (7 oz) of dark chocolate Confectionary sugar Parchment paper Crumble the cookies with your hands (you need both big and small chunks – no electric machines here!). Double boil chocolate. Meanwhile, whip butter and sugar until frothy, add eggs and mix until you get a creamy texture. Add melted chocolate and mix well. Add cookie crumbles and mix with a spatula. Pour the mixture over a piece of parchment paper, trying to keep it together in a long rectangular shape. Wrap the paper around itself and with your hands try to give the bundle a cylindrical shape. Close the edges by folding the paper, and wrap the whole thing in aluminum foil. Refrigerate at least 4 hours. Remove all the foil and paper layers, and roll the cylinder over a surface sprinkled with confectionary sugar. To give it, even more, a salami look you can use kitchen twine and wrap it around the chocolate salami.



Ingredients for a small jar: 40 gr (1.4 oz) of brown cane sugar 15 gr (0.5 oz) of sunflower oil 4 gr (0.14 oz) of hazelnuts 10 gr (0.35 oz) of cocoa powder 10 gr (0.35 oz) of cow milk Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until creamy. Store it overnight in the refrigerator to help flavors set. This spread is better stored in the refrigerator, especially in warm houses.


vin brulè

Ingredients for a small jar: 2 tablespoons of a crushed cinnamon stick 2 tablespoons of cloves 1/2 tablespoon of ground nutmeg 3 tablespoons of dark chocolate Grate the chocolate. Place it with all the other spices in a food processor and pulse a few seconds (you only need to crush them coarsely). Store in small jars and decorate. Instructions: Place a tablespoon of the vin brulè mix and a glass of red wine (preferably a sweet wine) in a saucepan, add a tablespoon of honey and bring to a boil Serve hot.



Ingredients for a medium size bottle: 150 gr (5.3 oz) of milk 150 gr (5.3 oz) of heavy cream 150 gr (5.3 oz) of Nutella 50 gr (1.8 oz) of grain alcohol Pour milk, cream, and Nutella in a saucepan, over low heat. Whisk until the Nutella is completely melted and amalgamated to the other liquids. As soon as you get to a boil, remove the saucepan from the heat and let chill. Add the alcohol and mix well. Pour the liquor into a bottle and refrigerate a couple of days (15-20 are ideal). You’re nutellino is ready! You can store it in the refrigerator (or pantry, but cold-served is much, much better) up to 90 days.

the italian

gift basket

Here’s another idea for an Italian themed gift basket: a few typical products you can find in any Italian kitchen. Four of them are homemade: Fette biscottate, the rusks that Italians have for breakfast, spread with butter and/or jam, or Nutella. Parmesan infused olive oil, so delicious and versatile (this hint comes from my weekly/monthly newsletter, sign up for more great ideas ;-)). Tomato passata (you already have the recipe, it’s in the Sweet Memories project). And homemade pasta, you can find my recipe on the blog, click here!). I added a digestive liquor, in this case, I had Fragoletto, a strawberry based liquor. I finished the basket with nuts, Christmas decorations, peperoncini (= red chilis) bay leaves and rosemary sprigs (for the scent, when you open the box).



350 gr (12 oz) of 00 flour 50 gr (1.8 oz) of sugar ½ teaspoon of malt 10 gr (0.35 oz) of fresh yeast 125 ml of milk (4 oz), room temperature + a little more for brushing 30 ml (1 oz) of sunflower seeds oil 1 egg ½ teaspoon of salt 1 teaspoon of honey A loaf mold Dissolve malt, sugar, and yeast in the milk. In a stand mixer (dough hook on), amalgamate flour and yeasted milk. Add the egg, honey, oil, and salt and knead. Form a cylinder as long as your mold and place it in it, after lining it with parchment paper. Let rise at least 2 hours. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Brush the cylinder with milk and bake 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and bring to room temperature. Delicately slice the loaf in 1.5 cm/0.5 inches pieces and display them on an oven tray, lined with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 150°C/300°F. Toast the slices 20-30 minutes, until crispy and golden brown. Let chill and store in glass jars or plastic bags for up to a week.

The easiest, but also tastiest idea for a homemade gift ;-) Ingredients for a medium-size jar 2 parmesan rinds Olive oil a sterilized jar Place parmesan rinds on the bottom of a straight-out-of-the-dishwasher/sterilized jar. Fill it in with extra-virgin olive oil. Give it 2-4 weeks to infuse.

the christmas bakery


Here’s a collection of some of the most iconic Italian Christmas treats: Cookies, of course! Zabaione (no, it’s not zabaglione!) And crunchy fried dough balls from Puglia, that you fry, sprinkle with sugar or salt and devour. It's that time of the year. So bake, cook, give, eat and enjoy! To me, there is no Christmas if the oven is not turned on at least 5 days a week. I love the smell of baked goods that permeates the house. I love welcoming friends with a tray of homemade cookies. And I absolutely love cozy nights with a Christmas movie and a sweet deliciousness to snack with.


ma buoni

(Ugly but Good) Ingredients: 2 egg whites 150 gr (5.3 oz) of sugar 125 gr (4.4 oz) of hazelnut meal (or toasted hazelnuts to be milled) 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder 1 pinch of salt Grind together hazelnuts (or hazelnut meal) and sugar. Whip the egg whites and a pinch of salt to soft peaks. Delicately add the hazelnut meal with sugar and the cocoa powder to the egg whites. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and cook, over minimum heat, while continuously stirring with a wood spoon. As soon as the mixture tears away from the walls of the saucepan remove it from the heat and let rest a few minutes. Preheat oven to 150°C/300°F. Line an oven tray with parchment paper. Form round shaped (as much as you can) cookies with a tablespoon and place them over the tray. Bake cookies 30 minutes. Bring to room temperature and serve (or store 3-4 days in a glass jar).


di dama

(Lady Kisses) Piedmontese cookies that recall kissing lips, don't you think? Ingredients: 200 gr (7 oz) of 00 flour 200 gr (7 oz) of almond meal 200 gr (7 oz) of confectionary sugar 200 gr (7 oz) of butter, room temperature 1 vanilla bean 1 pinch of salt 100 gr (3.5 oz) of dark chocolate In a stand mixer bowl, mix sugar, almond meal and a pinch of salt. Add butter and the vanilla bean (carved and beans scooped out with a knife). Mix enough to amalgamate all the ingredients. Form a ball of dough, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate overnight. Get the dough out of the fridge, work it with your hands enough to make it workable. Form small balls of dough with your hands (about 7 cm/3 inches diameter). Place them on an oven tray, lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate them at least an hour. Preheat oven to 140°C (280°F), static. Bake the cookies (straight out of the fridge) about 20 minutes. Get them out of the oven as soon as you see a hint of gilding. Bring them to room temperature. Double boil the chocolate until totally melted. Spread a thin-medium layer of chocolate on the base of a cookie and “glue” it to another one. Let the chocolate dry and serve the cookies (or store them up to a week in a glass jar).

almond sicilian


Ingredients: 250 gr (8.8 oz) of almond meal (or toasted almonds to be milled) 250 gr (8.8 oz) of sugar 60 gr (2 oz) of egg whites 1-2 drops of vanilla extract 1-2 drops of bitter almond extract toasted and peeled almonds (halved), candied cherries or Christmas confetti Grind together almonds (or almond meal) and sugar. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Use a piping bag (medium drop flower tip on) to form round cookies (6-7 cm/2.5-3 inches diameter), over an oven tray lined with parchment paper. Start from the outside, designing circles towards the center. Lightly press an almond or half a candied cherry on top of each cookie. Or, as I did, sprinkle some Christmassy red, green and red confetti all over them. Let rest overnight. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Bake the cookies 8 minutes, or until lightly golden. Bring to room temperature before removing them from the tray.



This is the Apulian pettole recipe. They're made in many regions of Italy, so there are a few versions. But a few things are for sure: they’re fried and delicious, and they’re made for Christmas. In Taranto, the birth city of my husband, they’re traditionally fried on November 22th, the day of Santa Cecilia. From that date on, Christmas festivities can begin. Ingredients for about 12 pettole 300 gr (10.6 oz) of 00 flour 175 gr (6 oz) of water 12 gr (0.4 oz) of fresh yeast 1 teaspoon of salt + more to season 1 teaspoon of sugar + more to season Vegetable frying oil The first thing you need is to prepare two small bowls: one with sugar and the other one with salt. Depending on personal tastes, people can opt for sweet or savory pettole. Dissolve yeast in the water. In a bowl, mix flour with salt and sugar, add water and mix with a wooden spoon. Cover the bowl with plastic and let the mixture rise 1.5 hours. Heat a couple of cups of frying oil in a medium size pot, medium heat. Use a big spoon to pour a spoonful of mixture at the time in the hot oil, to form small balls. As soon as the balls become lightly golden, use a skimmer to remove them and place them on a plate with kitchen paper to absorb excess grease. Serve them immediately and let each one opt between sprinkling them with (or rolling them into) sugar or salt.



On a cozy Christmas night… While watching a Christmas movie… Or listening to Christmas carols… Or chatting with a group of good old friends… Rediscovering old traditions… Ingredients for 1 small cup (enough for one person, believe me), duplicate as desired: 2 egg yolks 40 g (1.4 oz) of sugar 20 ml (0.7 oz) of marsala (Martini bianco) Place yolks and sugar in a pot that you’ll later use to double boil. Beat until well blended and a little foamy. While still whisking, gradually add the marsala. Place the pot on another one, with simmering (not boiling) water and cook, still whisking, for about 10 minutes. At some point, the liquid will get a fluffy and creamy consistency and the alcohol smell will be gone. That’s when your zabaione is ready. You can serve it immediately, hot and scented; or you can let it cool down, refrigerate and serve cold, sweet and delicate.

old style


Here’s what goes in the traditional Italian Christmas stocking (“calza della Befana”): Chocolates: think of Baci and Gianduiotti Candies; you know those gummies covered in sugar? Those are the ones! And if you can find them, Rossana caramels (milk cream stuffed caramels, heavenly delicious!) Licorice: black, red, wheels, strings… whatever you find. Chocolate coins: a loooot! Fruits: mostly tangerines, mandarins, and oranges. Nuts: walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts… You can also add small, entertaining games like bubble soap bottles, minipuzzles, crayons, stickers, mini cars, rubber animals. Unmissable: sweet sugar charcoal, the “punishment” for naughty kids :-)

the bday


I’m not a big party person. Not anymore. And I wonder if I ever was or if I was simply in the “I have tons of friends because I’m young, flirty and in need of staying out of my parent’s house for as long as possible” phase. But I am a birthday girl. A week is hardly enough to complete all the celebrations I aim for. When possible, this is all I do: A dinner party with my parents and siblings. An intimate romantic dinner with my husband. A long weekend getaway. Something with my most intimate friends. This last point is my creative challenge of every year. I’ve organized dancing classes in the park, themed dinner parties, London trips (yes, once I managed some of them to fly to one of my favorite cities, book an Airbnb accommodation and have high tea at Fortnum and Mason, but I don’t think I’ll ever get them to replicate :-()… And recently, my craving for art, history, and city walks brought me to this: I organized a guided walking tour through Trastevere. I know a girl, Francesca, that is the best guide I’ve ever met. She knows EVERYTHING and she is so compelling and passionate that at some point you find yourself talking about the Beatles, even if you began with, I don’t know, let's say emperor Augustus?! She just knows how to naturally involve you and link from one interesting topic to one even more interesting. So, I asked her to be our guide. As soon as I mentioned Trastevere, she proposed the best itinerary I could think of: Inedited Trastevere, a walk in the less known streets of this fascinating area. We met at the Tiberin Island, walked through alleys, discovered tiny churches and abandoned buildings, and learned a lot of ancient history and “modern” traditions. We ended on the riverside of the Tiber, nose up, admiring Triumphs and Laments, a recent street artwork by William Kentridge. A graffiti realized by strategically “cleaning” the biological patina of the travertine embankment walls. It is 500 meter-long and incredibly fascinating. See? I told you she’s the best! On my part, I took care of provisions: a small bag for each participant with: Popcorn, two flavors: plain olive oil or truffle oil (and this, my friends, is my last year’s foodie find, DO try it at home!). Rhubarb tea: a refreshing and tasting flavor I’m in love with. Floral paper cups and straws. Personalized labels, just to remind everyone that it was MY birthday and that we were in Trastevere :-) I also glued a piece of a bunting garland to a plastic stick to make a guiding flag (you know, just like a real tour!) A Saturday evening, a sweet breeze, the Eternal City, a talented guide and lovely friends; success!!! If I inspired you enough to make your own “birthday” tour, but don’t know where to find a guide, look out for art students, check town halls, museums or even travel agencies, I’m sure you’ll meet the perfect amateur/professional. Also, don’t limit yourself to the city, or historic areas, think of a botanical expert and a garden or park walk, or a specific museum, or an expert in a topic that interests you and might drag your friends in as well!

Italian Traditions: In Italy, after blowing out birthday candles, and making a wish, of course, it is very important to break the candles in two! Apparently, the reason is that if you don’t break the candle, your wish could be stolen by someone else. If the candle is broken and can’t be used again, your wish is safe :-)

the good & tasty


A few healthy recipes to compensate the greedy side of Fall, with its comfort foods and festivities. Recipes that are so tasty, you'll completely forget we were talking about healthy eating! An infused oil to sprinkle on almost any dish and add a healthy hint. A delicious and cleansing overnight oatmeal breakfast. A snack smoothie packed with vitamins. And pesto, to turn pasta nights in a real beauty treatment. Enjoy!



This is something I learned in Bali, last year. Instead of going crazy to find new ways to add healthy turmeric to your food, simply infuse your olive oil (they infuse coconut oil, but we're in Italy and we put olive oil EVERYWHERE!) Just remember one thing: turmeric properties are activated when paired with black pepper, so keep a grinder next to the olive oil.

How to: Grate 1 finger size turmeric root per each small bottle of olive oil. Pour olive oil and grated turmeric into the bottle, close it and store it a few weeks before using it.

banana & "nutella"

overnight oatmeal

Nutella and healthy in the same paragraph? Yes, but let me confess I only used the commercial name. Instead, I used (and always do) the organic healthy version of it: hazelnut spread made with real hazelnuts, healthy oils, and brown sugar. I don’t know if where you live you can find them, but, eventually, look for Ecor or Alce Nero, so good that at some point you don’t even think of Nutella anymore. Oatmeal literally washes away any obstacle in your arteries and in your intestine. Colon cleanse, homemade :-). Banana packs you with potassium and manganese, and hazelnuts with vitamin E for your brain health (hey back-to-schoolers, I’m talking to you!). So here’s the make-ahead and refrigerate-overnight champion’s breakfast: ½ banana smashed 2 tablespoons of oatmeal 2-3 tablespoons of water 1 tablespoon of Nutella Mix everything in a jar, close the lid and refrigerate overnight. Enjoy your breakfast!

m a t c h a


Let’s revise matcha benefits, because, if this Fall we take in enough of it, we might help our bodies face Winter as strong and healthy tigers, no, better, as Japanese roaring dragons! Matcha is a powder made of blended, first-quality, green tea leaves. Which means, all the benefits you heard about green tea are here, only to the nth degree. ½ teaspoon of matcha powder has caffeine, antioxidants (3 times green tea and 15 times blueberries, as a superfood reference), proteins, vitamin A (hello glowing skin!), vitamin C (bye bye colds and Winter blues) and iron. Matcha is the warrior that defeats bacteria, viruses and fungus. Catechins (especially the EGCG) in matcha also fight inflammation and increase arteries health and cells reparation. What I found great about matcha (and green tea) is that even if they give you energy, they also calm you down, giving you a sense of profound well-being. If all this wasn’t enough, it MAY be demonstrated that matcha helps increase metabolism and fat burn. And with all the festivities and comfort food feasts attending us, just taking the chance is enough for me :-). So, here's my matcha smoothie recipe, a perfect combo between the intense flavor of this vibrant green powder and the smoothness and sweetness of bananas! for each serving: ¾ glass of coconut milk ½ banana 1 tablespoon of raw honey 1 teaspoon of matcha powder A few ice cubes (if you want it very cold) Guess? Blend, blend, blend… and enjoy!



Your next plate of pasta could be a beauty treatment. Because you’ll season it with arugula pesto. Arugula is packed with antioxidants (those gladiators that fight away free radicals), vitamin A and K (beautiful skin and glowing healthy eyes for you, this season!). And you’ll add pistachios. Pistachios contain fatty acids that promote hair growth and biotin that nourishes hair and increases hair flexibility (no more split ends). Smooth skin, shining eyes, and great hair? I already feel like a beauty queen (a smart one :-)).

The recipe Ingredients for two: 1 handful of arugula leaves 2 dried tomato fillets 1 small or ½ garlic clove (depending on your garlic tastes) 2 tablespoons of peeled pistachios ¼ cup of extra-virgin olive oil Clean the arugula leaves. Blend them together with all the other ingredients. Cook pasta and season it. Or refrigerate up to a couple of days.

see you this Winter!

Want more? Check the Tomato Red, the Floral, the Vintage Gold, the Marble White, the Beige, the Vintage Pink or the Blue Issue! the content is evergreen, just like Italian cuisine :-) Or visit the website: and subscribe to the newsletter (I always send exclusive and useful tips) Any question or suggestion? please send an email to: see you soon!


Profile for Claudia Rinaldi Spartera

Gourmet Mag - The Green Issue  

Fall 2017

Gourmet Mag - The Green Issue  

Fall 2017